Five principles of how companies can accelerate towards resilience and sustainability in turbulent times: The case of Ardagh Glass Poland

Case Study

Five principles of how companies can accelerate towards resilience and sustainability in turbulent times: The case of Ardagh Glass Poland


In this article, we delve into the strategic aspects and key learnings from Ardagh Glass Poland’s transformation, offering insights and guidance for leaders in operations-focused companies. The company’s adoption of the KAIZEN™ and Continuous Improvement methodologies echoes the global shift towards resilience and sustainability in the post-pandemic era. Their journey mirrors the digital transformation trend, integrating advanced methodologies and technologies to enhance efficiency, making their story particularly relevant in today’s environmentally conscious and technology-driven markets.

Let’s dive into five principles that are viable across a multitude of businesses that want to unlock the potential for growth and development in their own organizations.

#1: Top Management Involvement is Crucial

Leadership commitment is vital for transformative success. Ardagh Glass Poland’s journey underscores the famous quote from Masaaki Imai, Founder of Kaizen Institute, “Top management involvement is the first, second, and third most important factor in a successful KAIZEN™ transformation.” This concept was vividly demonstrated by the company’s approach of cascading the group strategy through every level of the organization, ensuring a unified direction and commitment to excellence. Patryk Grzempa, Plant Director at Ardagh Glass Poland, puts it this way, “The transformation we’ve undergone is about fostering a mindset of innovation and excellence that transcends borders and industries. Our story can inspire and guide businesses everywhere.”

This mindset is also reflected in the company values that were developed in a holistic process throughout the organization:

  • Inclusion ensures we are mindful of others, inviting contributions from everyone and valuing our diversity of thought. We all need to be comfortable and confident to be ourselves while at work.
  • Trust is earned by displaying attributes that show we are respectful, reliable, consistent and honest in our approach to others. It is built on mutual respect, personal integrity and transparency.
  • Teamwork is achieved with collaboration and open communication. Working together as one team enables us to identify hazards, work safely and prevent incidents. Teams should be mindful of the impact their decisions have on other teams, and the business.
  • Excellence is our continual pursuit of self-improvement through learning and development, as well as our commitment to elevate the business to greater heights.
Ardagh Glass Poland’s Core Values
Ardagh Glass Poland’s Core Values

Example and Analysis

Consider a company where top management is disengaged from Continuous Improvement initiatives. Such a company might exhibit a lack of strategic direction, poorly aligned goals, and a workforce that feels disconnected from the organization’s vision. In contrast, Ardagh Glass Poland’s leadership actively drove the KAIZEN™ initiatives, creating a strong alignment between the company’s strategic goals and the daily activities of its employees. This top-down commitment was instrumental in building a culture of Continuous Improvement.

#2: Empowering Employees at All Levels

Ardagh Glass Poland didn’t just rely on cascaded directives. They empowered employees by involving them directly in the improvement process. This was achieved through tool ownership, development of skill matrices, and fostering leadership skills at all levels. By doing so, they created a participatory culture where Continuous Improvement was everyone’s responsibility.

Example and Analysis

Imagine two factories: one where employees are mere executors of tasks, and the other, akin to Ardagh Glass Poland, where employees are active participants in the improvement process. The latter leads to a workforce that is not only more engaged but also more innovative and efficient. This empowerment results in a dynamic environment where improvements are continuously identified and implemented by those who are closest to the work processes.

#3: Integrating Methodologies for Synergy

Ardagh Glass Poland successfully combined Lean, Six Sigma, and KAIZEN™ methodologies, integrating them into their daily processes. This holistic approach ensured that Continuous Improvement became the standard for operations, rather than a series of isolated initiatives.

Example and Analysis

A company focusing solely on Lean might miss opportunities for statistical analysis offered by Six Sigma, or the cultural dimensions of KAIZEN™. Ardagh Glass Poland’s integrated approach leveraged the strengths of each methodology, leading to more comprehensive improvements. This integration is a powerful example for other companies aiming to create a robust Continuous Improvement culture. It demonstrates how different methodologies can complement and enhance each other, leading to a more holistic and effective approach to operational excellence.

#4: Effective Communication and Recognition

Effective internal communication and recognition were key components of Ardagh Glass Poland’s strategy. They created a newspaper, visual information boards, and implemented an employee recognition system. This approach not only informed employees but also engaged and motivated them, making them feel valued and identify as an active part of the company’s success.

Example and Analysis

A company with poor internal communication might experience a disconnection between management and employees. In contrast, Ardagh Glass Poland’s approach ensured everyone was aware of ongoing initiatives and their role in the company’s success. This level of communication fosters a sense of community and belonging, which is crucial for sustaining motivation and engagement in long-term improvement initiatives.

#5: Community Involvement and External Recognition

Ardagh Glass Poland’s focus extended beyond the factory walls. They involved employees in community initiatives and garnered external recognition, including awards and substantial investments. This not only enhanced their reputation but also demonstrated their role as a responsible and forward-thinking industry leader.

Example and Analysis

A company focusing solely on internal metrics might overlook the benefits of community engagement and external recognition. Ardagh Glass Poland’s approach, however, shows how engaging with the community and earning external accolades can lead to an enhanced reputation and reveal new opportunities for growth and innovation. This holistic view of success, encompassing both internal improvements and external engagement, sets a benchmark for other companies.

Blueprint for Organizations Globally

The lessons from Ardagh Glass Poland’s transformation offer valuable insights for diverse cultural and geographical contexts. Their strategic alignment, employee empowerment, and Continuous Improvement culture are universally applicable concepts. These principles can guide organizations worldwide in adapting to their unique challenges, demonstrating the universal applicability of operational excellence principles.

Mariusz Petrow, Director of Continuous Improvement, AGP-Europe, emphasizes, “Our journey towards operational excellence, though rooted in local culture, is a blueprint for organizations globally. The principles of Continuous Improvement and employee empowerment are universally relevant and can drive success in any context.”

Transforming Leadership Practice

As we conclude, it’s imperative to look forward to the future of operational excellence and Continuous Improvement. The journey of Ardagh Glass Poland can be a beacon of inspiration for other organizations. The principles and strategies they employed can be adapted and applied in various contexts, driving a wave of efficiency, sustainability, and innovation worldwide.

We encourage leaders and practitioners to reflect on these insights and consider how they can be woven into their organizational fabrics. The future of operational excellence lies in our collective ability to learn, adapt, and continuously improve – a journey that is ever-evolving and endlessly rewarding.

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